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Painting with Light

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been watching Andrew Graham-Dixon’s BBC 4 TV series The Art of Scandinavia. It’s over now but you can still catch it on the iPlayer.

I hadn’t heard of a lot of the artists but there were some great landscapes in the Norway episode.

The painting which struck me most however was by a Danish artist, Vilhelm Hammershøi. It’s called Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams. I found an illustration on the net on this page and I reproduce it below.

Dust Motes: Vilhelm Hammershøi

A stunning depiction of light, I hope you’ll agree.

In its use of the qualities of light I was immediately reminded of John Henry Lorimer’s Spring Moonlight, which I blogged about here.

As well as Spring Moonlight, which I forgot to mention in the previous post about it is a huge canvas, Kirkcaldy Art Gallery also has on display at the moment two further Lorimer pieces of more normal dimensions, Sundown in Spring, Kellie Castle:-

Sundown in Spring, Kellie Castle: Lorimer

and View of Kellie Castle:-

View of Kellie Castle

both of which exemplify Lorimer’s distinctive style. The pictures are taken from Art UK which is the successor site to BBC’s Your Paintings.

Kellie Castle was the home of the Lorimer family and is worth a visit if you’re ever over in the East of Fife.

Dad’s Army

DJ Films. Directed by Oliver Parker.

Having said we rarely go to see a film here we are going to a cinema twice inside a week!

The good lady has long been a devotee of the Dad’s Army TV shows. She always tries to catch them when they are on repeat (which is every week it seems) even though I bought her the box set for her birthday or Christmas one year many moons ago; so we couldn’t avoid the new film featuring its characters.

It turns out there is a dedicated cinema only a couple or so miles from our new house. It had shut down for a while when we lived in Kirkcaldy but has since reopened and it was to there we went.

In the case of Michael Gambon as Private Godfrey and Bill Nighy as Sergeant Wilson the casting was spot on. Neither gave exactly a clone copy of the originals but conveyed their essence well. Bill Paterson as Private Frazer was maybe a bit too obvious a choice and Daniel Mays was a good enough Private Walker. Toby Jones – excellent as ever – was perhaps not quite bumptious enough as Captain Mainwaring. Neither did Tom Courtenay exude the bumbling nature of Lance Corporal Jones nor was Blake Harrison quite as petted as private Pike needs to be.

But this is to complain that the film isn’t the TV series. And it isn’t. There weren’t enough laughs for a start. A few giggles and the odd grunt. There were also some minor crudities which wouldn’t have appeared in the original (“They don’t like it up ’em” notwithstanding.) It was nice to see Frank Williams as the vicar still and the other surviving member of the TV cast, Ian Lavender, as a Brigadier Dier.

Like its predecessor film with that original cast, which didn’t really work, this version of Dad’s Army shows that 90 minutes is just too long to buttress the conceit of a 30 minute sitcom. The necessity for sustained plot weighs too heavily on the enterprise. Witness also the dire On the Buses films of similar vintage which nevertheless were a commercial succes. (Then again not one of the various TV episodes of On the Buses ever attained anything near the level of the poorest Dad’s Army one.)

The plot here consists in the presence of a German spy in Walmington-on-Sea and the intrusion of a woman from Sgt Wilson’s past onto the scene.

It is the women of the town, Cissy and Dolly (Private Godfrey’s sisters,) Mavis Pike (as played by Sarah Lancashire the best thing in the film – except when she had to simper) and Mrs Mainwaring who in the end win the day – not something I could have seen happening in a TV episode I have to say.

The best thing about it all, though, was the outtakes alongside the end credits, corpsing and such.

I wasn’t convinced by Capt Mainwaring’s non-uniform shirt and Sgt Wilson’s civvy tie; they both looked far too modern.

But there was one absolute howler; and it was repeated. Paris was twice mentioned as being accessible to Walmington’s inhabitants – by telephone the second time. In 1944? Pre D-Day? (The plot is entangled with the deception plan to convince the Germans that the invasion would be in the Pas de Calais.) No such communication was possible at the time.

Reelin’ In the Years 105: Hazell

Taggart’s wasn’t the first TV theme tune Maggie Bell had taken on. From the previous decade here’s her version of the Hazell theme.

Maggie Bell: Hazell

Live It Up 23: No Mean City (Theme tune to Taggart)

There’s only one tune to go with in the week I reviewed No Mean City the novel and that’s the song which was the theme tune to STV’s long-running detective show Taggart and which took its title from the novel. Wonderfully delivered by Maggie Bell.

Maggie Bell: Taggart Theme Tune (No Mean City)

1864

 1864cover

When this Danish TV series – the most expensive production in Danish television history – was first trailed on the BBC and I saw the blue uniforms I thought it would be about the War Between the States (known on this side of the Atlantic as the American Civil War) as the date fitted. I was immediately interested. I’ve read a lot about that conflict and watched the Jim Burns TV series several times. Looking more closely I realised that I didn’t recognise the painting shown on the trailer or the figures within it (I most likely would have for an American Civil War painting) and of course the uniforms’ details weren’t quite right.

I was therefore even more intrigued when it dawned the series was about the Second Schleswig War as that was something I knew vaguely about from History, at school. Once read, who can forget the comment the UK Prime Minister at the time, Lord Palmerston, made about the intricacies of the Schleswig-Holstein question – which in the series was uttered to that fine actress Barbara Flynn, in the person of Queen Victoria – that there were only three men who ever understood it; the Prince Consort, who was dead, a German professor who had gone mad and Palmerston himself, who had forgotten all about it?

As presented in the series, the war seems to have been provoked by Denmark in a fit of collective insanity. The programme, which has been criticised for historical inaccuracies (it would be difficult to portray any conflict televisually without some of that I’d have thought) certainly presented the Danish Prime Minister, Monrad, as an utter nutter. There seemed to be an element of hysteria in the air that prefigured the Germany of 1939. (Then again there was widespread welcome to Britain’s declaration of war in 1914, so no need to point fingers; except the UK hadn’t sought that conflict – at least not directly.)

However the dire results of the Second Schleswig War for Denmark meant that, to that country’s credit, no Danish military action outside its frontiers again took place until the NATO bombing of Kosovo in 1999.

Scenes were shown from both sides of the conflict and also the sidelines as Palmerston affected to intercede. The subtitles were no intrusion (1864 went out in the BBC 4 European detective slot on Saturdays at 9 pm.) As near as I could tell each nationality in the series spoke in its own language. (I have a smattering of German but no Danish except what I could glean from the dialogue’s similarities to German, English and, occasionally, Scots.)

For the series the necessity of introducing a human aspect to the conflict in the shape of estate manager’s daughter Inge and the two brothers Laust and Peter, with whom she has a special bond, allowed the introduction of those perennial literary concerns, love, sex and death. There was love to be sure, but not much sex – only four scenes as I recall, three of them having not much to do with love, plus another featuring boys attempting to masturbate – but enough death and destruction to slake anyone’s desires. The battle scenes were impressive – and visceral.

Overall the series was magnificent television, well worth checking out if you didn’t catch it, but I thought the elements of mysticism involving one of the soldiers from the village were unconvincing and the framing device wherein a disaffected young woman from our century sent to his house for a form of community service helps read out Inge’s memoirs to an old man (who is Inge’s grandson) was perhaps unnecessary, though it did give the sense of consequences cascading down the years and a contrast to the privations of the soldiers of 150 years earlier.

When I last looked in the BBC shop, the DVD of this was out of stock but the Blu-ray was available.

Just Like Buses

Today is another anniversary. Again just about inescapable if you’ve been near any BBC outlet the past week or so.

You wait 50 years for an anniversary and then two come along at once….

On 23rd November 1963 a strange, spooky TV programme with a first episode entitled An Unearthly Child appeared on BBC 1.

The programme was of course Doctor Who.

On Thu, 21/11/13, BBC 2 showed a good drama about its genesis, An Adventure in Space and Time. It’s on the iPlayer here.

The BBC has got a bit of a cheek calling it the longest running TV programme, though, considering they axed it for years after Sylvester McCoy’s run finished – apart from the Paul McGann one-off.

For any nostalgia freaks here are all the different title sequences.

Thunderbirds Are Gone

So today it is Gerry Anderson who has died.

Though he had produced television programmes earlier I was first aware of his work with Fireball XL5 – mainly due to the theme tune (which one of my mates had running through his head during a University term exam years later.) Then came Stingray and the iconic Thunderbirds.

After that, through Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons and Joe 90 I was perhaps a bit too old.

However, when these series were repeated in the 1990s my own sons were the perfect age to enjoy them – and the toys! (We still have those toys somewhere.)

Anderson moved on from the puppetry and “Supermarionation” of these fondly loved shows with the live action UFO and Space 1999. Those of a cruel disposition jested that the actors here were more wooden than the puppets had been.

All have dated perhaps badly (but nothing dates as quickly as the future.)

I was watching the BBC news channel when I heard the news. Emily Maitlis tried to interview Brian Blessed (who’d worked with Gerry a few times) over the phone. That was a mistake. Despite trying, she couldn’t get a word in edgeways.

Many will remember Gerry and his creations with a great deal of fondness.

Gerry Anderson, 14/04/1929-26/12/2012. So it goes.

Geography Awry

In the last episode of Waldemar Januszcak‘s excellent television series on the mostly unheralded art of the Dark Ages, where he covered the Vikings, the Carolingians and The Anglo-Saxons, he referred to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) as being off the North coast of Britain.

Tut-tut, Waldemar. That would make it in the Pentland Firth/Atlantic!

Lindisfarne is actually barely two-thirds of the way up Britain.

It is, however, off the North-East coast of England.

Long Ago and Far Away

Two 60s memories are now no more.

Scott McKenzie – a one hit wonder with San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)has died.

So too has the actor William Windom whom I remember very fondly as the star of the US TV series My World and Welcome To It, inspired by the works of cartoonist James Thurber, a role for which Windom won an Emmy Award. Though I hadn’t quite remembered it he also played Commodore Decker in Star Trek – for evidence of which see this:-

Commodore Decker

More latterly Windom has appeared in Murder She Wrote.

Here is a You Tube clip of a part of a My World and Welcome To It episode. It follows the usual pattern of Windom giving a spiel outside his (cartoon) house before the opening credits – which appear at about 1:30 and are a joy in themselves. The clip retains the original US adverts. (I must say they would drive me crazy coming in so early in a programme.)

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Scott McKenzie (Philip Wallach Blondheim): 10/1/1939-18/8/2012
William Windom: 28/9/1923-16/8/2012

So it goes.

Elisabeth Sladen

I was saddened to read today of the death of Elizabeth Sladen who played Sarah Jane, one of the Doctor’s many companions in Doctor Who.

Sad too, that Elisabeth was only 63. It’s no age at all for these days.

I am by no means an inveterate Doctor Who fanboy but have watched the series from its inception up to the present day. Sarah-Jane was the first female companion to be more than just an adjunct to the Doctor. It was a pleasure to see her return to the updated show during David Tenant’s time as the incumbent. I must admit, though, that I didn’t bother with the spin-off Sarah-Jane Adventures; I don’t think they were meant for me anyway.

With the demise of Nicholas Courtney that means two fondly remembered Doctor Who characters’ actors have now gone in less than two months.

Elisabeth Claira Heath Sladen: 1/2/1946-19/4/2011. So it goes.

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